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William Wallace Lincoln (December 21, 1850 – February 20, 1862) was the third son of President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. He was named after Mary's brother-in-law Dr. William Wallace.

William Wallace Lincoln
William Lincoln c. 1855
Born(1850-12-21)December 21, 1850
DiedFebruary 20, 1862(1862-02-20) (aged 11)
Cause of deathTyphoid fever
Resting placeOak Ridge Cemetery,
Springfield, Illinois
Parent(s)Abraham Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln
RelativesSee Lincoln family


Springfield yearsEdit

Willie and his younger brother Tad were considered "notorious hellions" when they lived in Springfield. They were recorded by Abraham's law partner William Herndon for turning their law office upside down: pulling the books off the shelves while their father appeared oblivious to their behavior.[1]

White House yearsEdit

Willie and his younger brother Tad, with their mother's nephew, Lockwood Todd, in Mathew Brady's DC studio (January 1, 1861)

Upon their father's election as President, Willie and Tad moved into the White House and it became their new playground. At the request of Mrs. Lincoln, Julia Taft brought her younger brothers, 14-year-old "Bud" (Horatio Nelson Taft Jr., 1847-1915) and 12-year-old "Holly" (Halsey Cook Taft, 1849-1897) to the White House and they became playmates of Willie and Tad.[2][3]

Illness and deathEdit

Willie and Tad became ill in early 1862. While Tad was not as badly affected, Willie's condition fluctuated from day to day. The most likely cause of the illness was typhoid fever, which was usually contracted by consumption of contaminated food/water. The White House drew its water from the Potomac River, alongside which thousands of soldiers and horses were camped. Gradually Willie weakened, and his parents spent much time at his bedside. Finally, on Thursday, February 20, 1862, at 5:00 p.m., Willie died. Abraham said, "My poor boy. He was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but then we loved him so much. It is hard, hard to have him die!"[4]

Both parents were deeply affected. Long after the burial, the President repeatedly shut himself in a room so that he could weep alone.[5] He cared for Willie's younger brother, Tad, who was still very ill and was heartbroken over the loss of his brother.[6] Mary Lincoln's grief over Willie's death was even more devastating than her husband's. She took to her bed for three weeks, so desolated that she could not attend the funeral or look after Tad.[7] Mary was so distraught for many months that Lincoln had to employ a nurse to look after her.[8]

Willie was interred at Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. After his father's assassination in 1865, Willie's casket was moved from the Carroll Mausoleum. He was re-interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, first in a temporary tomb and on September 19, 1871, a state tomb alongside the remains of his father and his brother Eddie. Tad and Mary Todd Lincoln were also later placed in the crypt of the Lincoln Tomb.[9][10]

In fictionEdit

Willie is featured in the 2017 novel Lincoln in the Bardo by American writer George Saunders. The novel takes place during and after Willie's death and deals with the president's grief at his loss. The bulk of the novel is set in the bardo, an intermediate space between life and rebirth, and takes place over the course of a single evening. Lincoln in the Bardo received critical acclaim, which included winning the 2017 Man Booker Prize.[11][12] The novel was also the New York Times bestseller the week of March 5, 2017.[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Wead (2003), p. 90.
  2. ^ Wead (2003), p. 91.
  3. ^ Bayne (2001), pp. 1–3.
  4. ^ Mr. Lincoln's White House: Prince of Wales Room. Retrieved on 2012-12-16.
  5. ^ Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Touchstone. p. 336.
  6. ^ Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Touchstone. p. 336.
  7. ^ Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Touchstone. p. 337.
  8. ^ Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Touchstone. p. 337.
  9. ^ Sneller, M.S., Rhoda; Sneller, Ph.D, Lowell. "Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site". Abraham Lincoln Online. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  10. ^ Sneller, M.S., Rhoda; Sneller, PhD, Lowell. "The Death of Willie Lincoln". Abraham Lincoln Online. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  11. ^ "Man Booker Prize 2017: shortlist makes room for debuts alongside big names". The Guardian. 13 September 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  12. ^ "Booker winner took 20 years to write". BBC News. 18 October 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  13. ^ "Hardcover Fiction - March 5, 2017". The New York Times. 23 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017.

External linksEdit